Don Seiffert of the Boston Business Journal reports that Boston Globe editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg has announced her retirement, and he notes that sports editor Joe Sullivan recently said he would retire as well.
I suspect the sports section will be just fine. Clegg’s shoes, on the other hand, may prove to be difficult to fill. A longtime Globe employee, Clegg followed Peter Canellos, an exceptionally thoughtful editor who took a top job at Politico after leaving the Globe several years ago. Clegg proved to be an innovator both online and in print. More important, she has a close working relationship with owners John and Linda Henry, which has really mattered given the Henrys’ ongoing interest in the editorial pages. You’ll find a synopsis of those innovations in an interview I did with Clegg for the Nieman Journalism Lab earlier this year.
And now for some personal news. For the past several months Clegg and I have been talking about working together on a project, probably a textbook about opinion journalism. I’ve known for a while that she was retiring — the project is not something I could take on if she’d stayed at the Globe given the conflict of interest with my work at “Beat the Press” and WGBH News. So I’m glad Clegg’s departure is finally out in the open.
Although we’ve sketched out a few ideas, we are a long way from producing anything. She’s not leaving the Globe until mid-August. I just wanted to let you know that Ellen and I will be working together before you heard it from anyone else.
The move, announced by publisher and owner John Henry, strikes me as overdue. You don’t let an interim editor completely remake the pages, as Clegg was recently allowed to do. In an email to the staff obtained by Media Nation, Henry wrote:
When Ellen Clegg graciously accepted the challenge to take on the role of Editor, Editorial Page on an interim basis, she did so with enthusiasm, resolve, and a commitment to bring a fresh perspective and new voices to the section. I truly believe her leadership has brought vitality and relevance to the section, reflective of the improvements I’m seeing throughout the organization. From Day One, Ellen has acted as if the term “interim” was just a word, not her destiny. So it is my great pleasure to announce that as of Monday, Ellen Clegg is Editor, Editorial Page of The Boston Globe. No ifs, ands, buts, nor interims about it.
Thanks, Ellen. Keep up the great work.
Clegg has a closer relationship with Henry than Canellos did, having previously served as the top spokeswoman for the Globe — and, thus, for Henry. Before that she was a longtime Globe journalist, serving in a variety of editing positions. Among other things, she is the author of the award-winning book “ChemoBrain: How Cancer Therapies Can Affect Your Mind” (Prometheus Books, 2009). You can read more about her background here.
Today’s editorial pages — simply labeled “Opinion” since the redesign — are characteristic of Clegg’s graphics-intensive vision.
To my eye, the most interesting piece today is a short commentary by editorial writer Marcela García on a dangerous proposal to make it easier for Massachusetts families to opt out of mandatory vaccines. It’s accompanied by a large, data-heavy map. Online, you can find a chart showing the opt-out rate at every public school in the state. It should fuel follow-ups by community news organizations across Massachusetts.
I’ve heard laments from several Globe readers — older, but smart and engaged — who think the redesign represents a dumbing-down of the paper’s traditional editorial and op-ed pages. For Clegg, it’s going to prove to be a balancing act in trying to attract new readers while not alienating her most dedicated audience. One thing that would help: doing a better job of alerting print readers that there’s additional content online.
As editorial-page editor, Clegg is a masthead equal with editor Brian McGrory. Both report directly to Henry. It’s taken a couple of years, but it looks Henry’s team is finally in place.
Of all the hoary traditions of 20th-century newspapering, few seem quite so hoary as the editorial and op-ed pages. Mixing editorials (unsigned because they represent the institutional views of the newspaper), cartoons, columns by staff members and outside contributors, and letters from readers, the opinion pages often seem anachronistic in the digital age — a bit too formal, more than a bit too predictable and way too slow off the mark.
Starting today, The Boston Globe is attempting to bring that nearly half-century-old construct up to date. No longer is the left-hand page labeled “Editorial” and the right “Opinion.” Instead, both pages are unified under “Opinion.” Content — some of it new, some familiar — is free-floating.
“You could look at this as a meal where you want snackable content and meatier content and the occasional dessert,” says interim editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg. Some of the ideas, she adds, were developed by experimenting with the opinion content of Capital, the Globe’s Friday political section.
Regular columns have been cut from 700 to 600 words. But op-ed-page editor Marjorie Pritchard says that the new Opinion section will also be more flexible, with pieces running from 400 to 1,200 or more words. (Coincidentally, this article in Digiday, in which Kevin Delaney of Quartz calls for the demise of the standard 800-word article, is the talk of Twitter this week.)
The Globe’s opinion operation has been on a roll under Clegg and her predecessor, Peter Canellos (now executive editor of Politico), with Kathleen Kingsbury winning a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing last month and Ramos being named a finalist in 2014. But the look and feel of the pages haven’t changed much since the 1970s.
And then there’s the whole matter of print in the digital age. Globe editor Brian McGrory recently told his staff that a print-first mentality still prevails, writing that “too many of us — editors, reporters, photographers, graphic artists — think of just print too often.”
McGrory does not run the opinion pages, as both he and Clegg report directly to publisher John Henry. But the redesigned print section, with its careful attention to art and graphics, has the look and feel of a print-first play. In fact, Clegg is pursuing a two-track strategy — an improved but tightly curated print section and a larger online Opinion site. “Brian as usual captured it beautifully,” Clegg says. “I think that captured the ethos of where we’re all going, where we’re all headed.”
For some time now Clegg herself has been writing an online-only “Morning Opinion Digest” with summaries and links to provocative content elsewhere. Opinion pieces often run online before they appear in print. And some pieces are Web exclusives, such as this commentary by editorial writer Marcela García on the cultural stereotypes surrounding Cinco de Mayo.
Says Pritchard: “We’ve run a lot of online exclusives in the past, and we’re trying to beef that up.” Clegg adds that “we certainly don’t want to shortchange the print reader, but we want to enhance the digital experience. There has to be a balance.”
It was a half-century ago that The New York Times developed the modern op-ed page. Times editorial board member John Oakes, the Ochs-Sulzberger family member who was largely responsible for the idea, once called it “one of the great newspaper innovations of the century,” according to this Jack Shafer piece.
By contrast, the Globe’s new Opinion section should be seen as a modest improvement. But at a time when newspapers, both in print and online, are fighting to maintain their relevance, the Globe deserves credit for trying something new.
National security reporter Bryan Bender is leaving The Boston Globe to take a position as national security editor at Politico, where he will be reunited with executive editor Peter Canellos, a former Washington bureau chief for the Globe.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Winnie the Pooh said that. As I hang up my hat after more than a dozen years at the Globe, it captures how bittersweet it is to bid adieu to all of you and this great institution.
I feel as though I am leaving part of my family, one that raised me as a journalist and taught me the meaning of integrity and hard work and that what we do in this business truly can be a public service.
I will always be grateful for the front row seat the Globe gave me to some of the defining events of our time. I had a heck of a lot of fun doing it. The adventure continues for me and I know I am prepared for what lies ahead only because of where I came from.
Cherished colleagues have come and gone over the years but I will never forget our Globe sister and brother, Elizabeth Neuffer and Anthony Shadid, who gave their lives giving voice to the voiceless. I was so darn lucky to have learned at their knee.
There are so many others to thank in Washington and Boston for this exhilarating, deeply meaningful ride. But no goodbyes to my Globe family. I reserve full visitation rights!
The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America has resurrected an old charge: that former Republican senator John Sununu Jr. is using his Boston Globe column to advance the interests of a lobbying firm he advises.
In this case, writes Eric Hananoki, the Washington firm of Akin Gump, with which Sununu has a relationship, has received at least $90,000 from a company that would be involved in building the Keystone pipeline — and on Thursday the Globe posted a full-throated defense of Keystone by Sununu, complete with crocodile tears for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. The Akin Gump connection is not disclosed.
When I looked into Sununu’s relationship with Akin Gump in 2012, then-editorial page editor Peter Canellos assured me that the former senator’s ties to the lobbying group were tangential enough that they did not rise to the level of a conflict. And Media Matters’ own report at the time made it clear that the situation was ambiguous. (On Akin Gump’s website Sununu is listed as an “Adjunct Senior Policy Advisor.”) Still, on a certain level what’s good for Akin Gump is good for John Sununu.
But as I wrote at the time, the larger question is why the Globe would hand over precious op-ed space to a partisan hack like Sununu. It’s still a good question. I hope it’s something Canellos’ interim successor, Ellen Clegg, is giving some thought to.
Sometime this evening, I imagine, we’ll learn whom The Boston Globe has endorsed for governor. So today we can play a parlor game and try to figure out the choice.
I thought Martha Coakley’s chances improved when challenger Seth Moulton beat incumbent John Tierney in the Democratic primary for the Sixth Congressional District. Why? Because the Globe surely would have endorsed moderate Republican Richard Tisei over the ethically tarnished Tierney, as it did two years ago, thus making it easier to endorse a Democrat for governor. But the Globe seems certain to choose Moulton, a liberal war hero whom it has already endorsed once this year, over Tisei. (That may come tonight as well.)
Today, though, came the Globe’s endorsement of Patricia Saint Aubin, a Republican who’s challenging incumbent state auditor Suzanne Bump, a Democrat. The folks who run the Globe’s liberal editorial pages generally like to endorse one high-profile Republican. Is Saint Aubin high-profile enough that the gubernatorial nod will now go to Coakley?
Another wild card: longtime editorial-page editor Peter Canellos recently left, and is now the number-three editor at Politico. Taking his place on an interim basis is Ellen Clegg, a veteran Globe editor and until recently the paper’s spokeswoman. She doesn’t get to make the final call (that would be owner-publisher John Henry), but hers is an important voice.
So … whom do I think the Globe will endorse? I think it will be Baker. He’s liberal on social issues, reasonably moderate on most other issues and could be seen as a counterweight to the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. (I’m trying to channel the Globe’s editorial board, not reveal my own choice.)
We’ll know tonight whether I’m right or wrong. And what do you think? Please post a comment here or on Facebook.
Do the Glasser-Canellos moves signal a shift toward substance and away from Politico’s infamous “win the morning” orientation? Let’s hope so. At the Globe, Canellos was known for taking a cerebral approach in his stints as Washington bureau chief, metro editor and, finally, editorial-page editor. He also oversaw the Sunday Ideas section.
In 2009, several months after Canellos was chosen to run the editorial pages, my WGBH colleague Adam Reilly profiled him for The Boston Phoenix. Canellos told Reilly his goal was to make the pages smart and unpredictable:
“Opinion is free. What we have to do is emphasize anything that rises above that cacophony,” says Canellos. “That means our columnists have to have a much more distinctive voice, and our columns and editorials have to be much better written than the cacophony — more authoritative, more credible, more reliable.”
This is good news for Canellos and for Politico.
Correction: I originally reported that Canellos would be the No. 2 editor.
Add veteran reporter Joe Kahn to the list of Boston Globe journalists who have accepted a buyout and will be taking early retirement. Kahn, a graceful feature writer, expects to continue contributing to the paper on a freelance basis while pursuing other interests.
So far, Kahn and former editorial-page editor Peter Canellos are the only two Globe staffers whose departures have been announced, though I’ve heard of other possibilities. If anyone has a list and would like to pass it along, your anonymity will be assured.
Kahn sent this email blast out earlier today, and I am reposting it here with his permission.
After 26 years, I am leaving my full-time job at the Boston Globe. Management has offered me a generous buyout package, which I’ve chosen to accept. In the meantime, I’m negotiating an arrangement by which I hope to become a semi-regular freelance contributor.
I am grateful for the editors’ enthusiasm for this plan and for understanding that this transition could hardly come at a more opportune time for myself and my family.
What’s next? In addition to writing, I’m interested in nonprofit and foundation work, possibly connected to youth sports — something I’m passionate about, as many of you know. More time to spend on the tennis court, golf course, and ski slopes will be nice, too. Also high on my list is travel and seeing far-flung family and friends more often.
I’m excited about this new phase and wish you all the best.
Boston Globe editorial-page editor Peter Canellos, a former metro editor and Washington bureau chief for the paper, is leaving. According to a press release issued earlier today, Canellos will depart after 26 years at the Globe. He is also an alumnus of The Boston Phoenix.
Canellos will be replaced on an interim basis by Ellen Clegg, a former newsroom editor who is currently executive director of communication and president of the Boston Globe Foundation.
The timing is especially interesting given that we are in the midst of endorsement season. Though the Globe is a staunchly liberal paper, the opinion pages have shown a penchant over the years for endorsing the occasional moderate Republican. Already I’ve heard speculation that the Globe might endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley. Presumably the paper’s owner/publisher, John Henry, will have the final word.
Canellos has long had a reputation for being one of the more cerebral journalists at 135 Morrissey Blvd. He oversaw the Sunday Ideas section as well as the opinion pages. In my dealings with him over the years I have always found him to be decent and thoughtful.
According to Craig Douglas of the Boston Business Journal, Canellos took an employee-buyout offer made earlier this summer. Also leaving, Douglas reports, is Kyle Alspach, a tech reporter for the Globe’s innovation site, BetaBoston. Alspach is going to work in a national position for Streetwise Media, which publishes the local site BostInno and which shares a common owner with the BBJ.
Here is an email from Canellos to the staff, a copy of which I obtained earlier today:
It’s been more than 26 years since I walked into the Globe newsroom to meet the then-Metro editor, our own David Scharfenberg’s brilliant father, Kirk. At the time, I could barely envision the breathtaking array of adventures to come. Now, more than half my life later, I will finish my Globe career as editorial page editor. It’s a perfect time, personally and professionally, to pursue exciting new opportunities. But it’s a tribute to all of you that it took me so long to prepare for another chapter.
At a time like this, it’s natural to think of all the editors, starting with the never-forgotten Kirk, who nurtured and encouraged me. There are too many to name, but all are in my thoughts. For a long time, though, I’ve had the honor of being an editor myself. And my own strength and inspiration, day in and day out, has come from the writers and fellow editors with whom I’ve worked over the past 15 years. During that time, I’ve had the unique privilege of holding three entirely different portfolios, from Metro to the Washington bureau to the opinion pages. And I owe all my satisfaction to the stimulating interactions with colleagues in all three departments.
Over the years, I’ve urged many Globe writers to consider doing stints as editors, on these grounds: It gives you a chance to look at the journalistic endeavor with fresh eyes; and it turns what can feel like a solitary and sometimes nerve-wracking process of creating great journalism into a truly collaborative experience.
Now, looking back over the years, it’s all those collaborations that I remember. I can see the people more clearly than the stories. All those days and nights talking through ideas, matching wits behind the keyboard, and then nervously watching the product take shape were meaningful because of the sense of shared creation.
Those stories live on, but so too do the relationships. Having shifted seats a few times, I’ve learned that the great reward at the end of any editing tenure is that colleagues can finally become friends. The breaking of the professional bond is only the start of an even more rewarding personal one. So it was when I left my previous two posts. So it will be again. I can only say how grateful I have been for these opportunities, and how happy I am in knowing — without any doubt — that while the work may end, the friendships will continue to grow. Thank you,
And here is the Globe’s press release announcing Canellos’ departure and Clegg’s new responsibilities:
Boston (September 15, 2014) – Boston Globe Media Partners today announced a change in leadership of its editorial and opinion pages. Peter Canellos is leaving his job as editorial page editor after five years in the role and 26 years at the Globe.
“It’s been more than 26 years since I walked into the Globe newsroom to meet the then-Metro editor, our own David Scharfenberg’s brilliant father, Kirk. At the time, I could barely envision the breathtaking array of adventures to come,” Canellos said. “Now, more than half my life later, I will finish my Globe career as editorial page editor. It’s a perfect time, personally and professionally, to pursue exciting new opportunities.”
Canellos was responsible for the paper’s editorial and op-ed pages, and Sunday Ideas section. As the head of the editorial board, he has played the leading role in crafting the paper’s positions on local, national, and foreign issues. During his tenure as editorial page editor, two writers were named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize: in 2013, columnist Juliette Kayyem was nominated as finalist for commentary, and this year deputy managing editor Dante Ramos was named a finalist for editorial writing.
“Peter is a singular talent, and we are extraordinarily thankful for the years he devoted to the Globe,” said John Henry, Globe owner and publisher. “He is a master storyteller, deep thinker and adept communicator.”
Ellen Clegg, who spent 30 years in the Globe’s newsroom and is now executive director of communication and president of the Boston Globe Foundation, will serve as interim editorial page editor. In the newsroom, she served as deputy managing editor for news operations; deputy managing editor for the Boston Sunday Globe; assistant managing editor for regional news; city editor, and specialist editor, where she oversaw reporting on health and science, religion, education, and ideas. In between stints at the Globe, she was a science writer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is the author of “ChemoBrain,” which was named consumer health book of the year by the American Journal of Nursing, and co-author of “The Alzheimer’s Solution.”
Henry has pledged that the Globe will continue to challenge convention and rethink the presentation of its opinion and editorial pages for the digital age.
“Our content, whether news, sports, entertainment or editorial, must be presented in formats that engage the broadest range of readers, wherever they are in the world and however they are reading the Globe,” said Henry.
Prior to becoming editorial page editor, Canellos was chief of the Globe’s Washington bureau, where he led the Globe’s bureau in its coverage of the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns and the insurgency in Iraq, among many other major issues. During his tenure the Globe’s bureau won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.
In 2011, Canellos won a distinguished writing award from the American Society of News Editors.
Canellos also oversaw the development of the Globe’s best-selling biography “Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy,” which reached number seven on the New York Times best-seller list.
He began working for the Globe in 1988, covering housing and urban affairs.
From 1999 to 2003, he was assistant managing editor for local news, overseeing all news coverage of the city and the region.
Former Globe managing editor Greg Moore has been named the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation for his leadership of the Denver Post. Moore was recently seen in the vicinity of the Globe, according to several people I’ve spoken with, although there’s also talk that he has no desire to return to Boston.